Julia Jacklin ‘Eastwick’
When I was a baby, I was gussied up in a long gown, with lace and frills spilling around my little pale limbs like frothy lemonade. That was my christening day, the day I was accepted into the Church Of England, despite coming from a long line of Catholics. I didn’t have a a Holy Communion, or a confirmation; I was cheated of the chance to dress up as a child bride and zombie-like, devour the body of Christ and drink his blood – which is just as well, because I have been an unwavering atheist since my early teens. I never went to confession. The idea of sitting in a wooden box and racking my brain for some imagined sin so as not to disappoint the priest sitting on the other side is baffling to me; confession is something you do under interrogation, when you’re being tortured for answers, not as a voluntary Sunday activity. But, confession is with us everywhere, from reality TV to music – and the word ‘confessional’ is often bandied about when referring to singer-songwriters, particularly when it comes to women (much to the annoyance of Joni Mitchell, who would inflict her wrath on anyone who dared to call her the C-word). A couple of years ago, Alexandra Pollard wrote a brilliant article for The Guardian on the pervasiveness of the word in relation to female songwriters, noting the equation of a word associated with guilt, shame, and sin with femininity. In a wider context, it comes down to the masculine/feminine dichotomy in popular music – in other words, the assumption that female musicians only write about their literal lives in a diary format, whereas male musicians explore bigger, more consequential themes…which is bullshit of course. Anyone who thinks Joni Mitchell (or St. Vincent, Emmy The Great, Sharon Van Etten etc.) doesn’t explore weighty concepts in her music is not really listening. Now added to that list of lyrical greats is Julia Jacklin, the Australian singer-songwriter who has been described as confessional more than once in her already glittering career. Her latest single ‘Eastwick‘ is, in her own words, a ‘Dancing With The Stars-induced depression tune’, with sparsely strummed guitar, gorgeously retro harmonic cadences, and drums that keep everything ticking along with insouciant restraint. However, the real star of the show is that crystal clear vocal; at times faltering, and at others naked and vehement, as Jacklin navigates her clever and sometimes devastating lyrics. Call it intimate, call it masterfully crafted, call it beautiful – just don’t call it the C-word. Enjoy.